August 24, 2008 Tony Morgan

Are You Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable?

Last Sunday at our Greenville campus, we had an older couple, probably in their sixties, accept Christ. That’s worth celebrating. I love to watch life change happen.

Here’s what’s amazing about stories like that. Our services in Greenville aren’t designed for people in their sixties. Our services are designed for a much younger audience. It’s an audience that loves loud music. They are comfortable with video teaching, because video is already a huge part of their lives. They love the coffeehouse atmosphere.

Here’s what we’ve learned. If we design our service experiences for a younger audience, we’re more likely to reach that younger person and we’ll also reach older folks. The reverse is not true. If we designed our service experience for an older audience, the younger crowd would not show up.

Now, here’s the reality. Most churches in America are designed for an older audience. In fact, the more-seasoned folks in those churches are sitting on committees telling the students and young adults how they can and can’t do ministry. The result? Younger people are leaving churches in droves.

Here’s what I know to be true. If the church is going to continue to reach the next generations:

  • I have to be willing to give leadership to people younger than me…and let them make mistakes.
  • I have to be willing to let younger folks lead me in worship…even when it’s not my favorite style of music.
  • I need to embrace new methods of ministry…even though it makes me uncomfortable.
  • I need to pray and encourage and finance the next generation church…and stop trying to make church a place that I like to attend.

It’s not about me. It’s about the people who desperately need to know the hope, love and forgiveness found only in Jesus Christ.

For the ministry of the local church to remain effective, I need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Founder and Lead Strategist of The Unstuck Group. Started in 2009, The Unstuck Group has served 500 churches throughout the United States and several countries around the world. Previously, Tony served on the senior leadership teams of three rapidly growing churches including NewSpring Church in South Carolina. He has five published books including, The Unstuck Church, and, with Amy Anderson, he hosts The Unstuck Church Podcast which has thousands of listeners each month.

Comments (0)

  1. Totally agree. I go back to what Craig Groeschel has said, that if we want to reach who no one is reaching, we must be willing to do what no one is willing to do.

    That is why I appreciate what your entire team does each and every week. As a staff member of another church I love to see it in action!

  2. Great post tony. Too many churches are shriveling in attendance wanting to maintain a certain presentation/atmosphere. What worked in their generation isn’t necessarily true today. Thanks for reminding us that substance and not style is what’s important.

  3. Leslie White

    Tony,

    You are preaching now, my friend!!! As a “middle ager”, I can only say to the “getting comforatble with being uncomfortable” thing….YES!!! If it means my kids and their friends and my friends’ kids are meeting Jesus, I say bring it on!! Not to even mention how I am growing because of my now distorted comfort zone!! Isn’t it awesome how God just keeps that refining process going in each of us??

  4. I‘ve been thinking about this for years.

    What I think is missing is, researchers continually keep trying to define everything by old paradigms: “age/generational” groups. I feel there is a huge developing paradigm shift. Researchers seem to be missing that point.

    The greatest phenomenon that is influencing all of today’s generations is digitally enabled/enhanced media. Digitally enhanced/enabled media is re-defining the boundaries on how various social groups and generations interface with each other: on some very basic levels, i.e. general preferences in lifestyle, communication and worship environments. A new language of interactivity has evolved. And this is giving rise to a digitally divided generation bracket. I’ve coined the term GEND (Digital Generation) for this newly evolving group.

    How is GEND defined? The common denominator is simply people who are digitally connected. It’s a digitally enhanced/enabled media world today. You either get it or you don’t get it.

    Tony, spread the word, we need to change the way we think. It’s not about age anymore, but mindset.

    I am 51, a grandmother and proudly GEND.

    For more on my thoughts on GEND… http://designingforphilistines.blogspot.com/2008/06/gen-d.html

  5. Jason Poeffel

    I’m on board with that! I’ve been dreaming of a church where grey-hairs see church as an opportunity to defer their preferences and invest/reach the next generation. Isn’t that what it means to be spiritually mature – to put the needs of others above our own?

  6. Jim

    Honestly, we in our late 50’s and EARLY 60’s grew up with loud and message filled music. The 60’s was a transitional decade, and my ears are still ringing. The generational music battles were fought then. It is the poor folks in their 70’s who won’t let go. We, as children, first rocked their world and the church is their last refuge. How sad.

  7. As a human resources professional, the data is true, young leaders who are not properly developed through constant feedback and opportunities will leave your organization for another that believes in them. I truely believe, with all my heart, that churches should learn from this. Discipleship includes providing constant feedback, accountability, and providing developmental opportunities in the life of every Christian and youth age is the best time to do it. One of the primary goals of the Singles ministry i was just called to assist with is to partner them with older leaders in the church for accountability purposes, and in turn, that single will also be motivated to become a mentor for youth age students. Leadership development should not only occur during succession planning.

  8. Oh to work in a culture and environment like this. If I had known about Newspring 5 years ago, it might have made me reconsider bailing out of South Carolina.

    Now, I feel my opportunities for radical movement and change for the better are passing me by, and not for a lack of desire on my part.

  9. There is a definite blend to how people inter-relate with each other and with God. We all need to feel challenged to meet people where they are at without compromising the message of Christ.

    While I agree with your four points, I am assuming that you are inferring that these new methods are God honoring and would have scriptural support. We can fall easily into the trap that says – “If people are showing up then we are doing the right thing.”

    I am curious as to what a “service experience” is and why we would design them for people. I am being a bit facetious here because the point should be that we are looking to please God. I know what you meant and I am not looking to start any worship wars or Christian debates. Just a reminder that the first thoughts should always be to God and His desires.

    Great post.

  10. Tony Morgan

    tony, just so you know, i don’t preface every post with pray, listen to God, follow his direction and honor him in everything. that’s implied.

    tony

  11. I can appreciate that. By the way, I am planning on being at the Catalyst Conference in October. Maybe we will bump into each other.

  12. Jenni Catron

    Great stuff and so true. We are having a lot of these conversations these days asking ourselves the tough questions about who do we need to be listening to that’s younger than us… and our leadership team are all mostly in their 30’s! Not that old, but still old enough to be disconnecting from the 20 somethings.

  13. OMGosh! Tony, you’re amazing! Thank you so much for this post! This is so self-less and kingdom focused! Thank you for saying this, Tony, I think you’re right!

    It must be hard, though, for an older leader to relinquish some control and serve the younger leader, since, in the old model, they themselves had to wait to get where they are. It must be very tempting to think:

    “I worked hard, paid my dues and had to wait to have influence, they should have to do the same. They can wait till they’re old like me.”

    Thanks for sharing these thoughts! So Christ-like.

  14. Tigger loves Jesus

    Tony,

    Interesting post. You made some great comments, and you are correct in that we need to be uncomfortable or else we will never grow in our relationship with God nor be a faithful witness to the power of God (Acts 1:8, 4:33, 6:8, Romans 1:16, I Corinthians 1:18, 4:20 and many more) working in us to conform us into the likeness of His Son (Romans 8:29). So yes we must be willing to be uncomfortable … that is to change.

    You made this statement: “It’s not about me. It’s about the people who desperately need to know the hope, love and forgiveness found only in Jesus Christ.” yes and no. It is not about me. amen! It is not about what I like or what I want. True. But it is not about those who do not know Christ. Don’t jump out of your seat read on … It is ALL about GOD! It has always been all about God …

    “Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and and with all your strength” … the greatest commandment … and yes the second is very similar “love your neighbor as yourself.” But WHO is first?

    “Have no other gods before Me” … there is only One God … One Lord, One Father, One Spirit, One Hope …

    Jesus said the reason He came was to testify to the Truth (see John 18:37). He also stated in His prayer the night He was arrested, while still with His disciple, that He had done all that the Father desired, bringing Him glory …

    In other words it was not about the disciples, it was not about Him … it was about God! (Jesus as God incarnate said I am the Truth … so God is the Truth … Jesus came to testify about God )

    Romans chapter 1 points out that since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities — His eternal power and His divine nature — have been clearly seen! All are without excuse becasue it is clear … it is plain for all to see! It is ALL about God.

    True … God’s mission is to reconcile the world to Himself … true …God desires all to come to repentance … so of course we must have the eternal persepctive that God has … wanting and desiring all to come to salvation = forgiveness and new life in Christ. But what is eternal life? John 17:3 asnwers it … “knowing God and the One who You sent, Jesus Christ.”

    Its all about God. People are leaving the church because it is too club like and too institutional … go and pay for the services you receive (called offering), and then go home. You got what you need for the week and then live for yourself. When you die you gain eternal life … this is FALSE. But that is the impression. I wanted nothing to do with that either.

    its not about me. Its not about the ones Jesus misses. Its not about the style or technology. Its all about God.

    I little bit about me: I am a pastor … and I am 36.

    God bless you as you serve Him each and every day.

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